Direct Conversion of Municipal and Agricultural Wastes to Biodiesel and Ethanol Utilizing a Unique Extremophilic Fungus

EPA Contract Number: EPD14014
Title: Direct Conversion of Municipal and Agricultural Wastes to Biodiesel and Ethanol Utilizing a Unique Extremophilic Fungus
Investigators: Kozubal, Mark
Small Business: Sustainable Bioproducts, LLC
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: May 1, 2014 through April 30, 2015
Project Amount: $99,944
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , SBIR - Biofuels


Sustainable Bioproducts LLC’s proposed research will further develop an efficient, economical and scalable process for conversion of municipal solid wastes and agricultural wastes to biodiesel and ethanol. The technology is based on use of a novel extremophilic fungus, named strain MK7, which thrives in pH 1.2 bison dung in geothermal habitats of Yellowstone National Park. The United States produces significant quantities of waste materials that are discarded. These wastes include organic components of municipal solid waste (MSW), biosolids from wastewater treatment plants and agricultural waste such as wheat straw. The release of these materials and their byproducts into the environment can have serious consequences, such as pollution of ground and surface water resources and spread of disease. Current technologies to convert waste materials into fuels are typically limited by poor conversion efficiencies, the requirement for significant inputs and controls to sustain the conversion process, and the low cost of the produced fuel (methane). Consequently, implementation and maintenance of these systems often requires significant monetary subsidies. Our innovative process represents a departure from current technologies through the use of strain MK7, which can directly convert a wide variety of waste materials into valuable fuels.

Genomic, proteomic, and enzyme analyses have revealed that degradation of waste feedstocks by strain MK7 is catalyzed by a powerful suite of enzymes, including copper-dependent lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases peroxidases (family GH61/AA9), ligninases, cellulases, xylanases and lipases. This enzyme suite is unique in that it targets all components of most feedstocks. Further, strain MK7 is capable of hydrolyzing 80-90% of pretreated switchgrass to soluble components. Following degradation of the feedstock, strain MK7 efficiently converts the products into easily extractable biodiesel precursors (38% lipids/dry weight of fungus) and ethanol. The objectives of this proposed work are to optimize conversion of organic non-recyclable MSW and biosolids from waste treatment plants to biodiesel and or ethanol using strain MK7, and “fine-tune” our process for converting these feedstocks using a bench-scale consolidated bioprocessing system. The simplicity, scalability and enhanced efficiency of waste-to-fuel conversion using our technology will enable onsite processing with significant economic advantages compared to current technologies. Sustainable Bioproducts envisions that this technology will be game changing for the waste-to-biofuels industry and that the financial benefits will be a strong impetus for application by municipalities and farming operations. Implementation of this process on a large-scale would result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and decreased use of fossil fuels.

Supplemental Keywords:

waste-to-energy, biodiesel, ethanol, fuel, extremophilic fungus, strain MK7, greenhouse gas emission;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Direct Conversion of Organic Municipal Solid Waste to Lipids Using an Extremophilic Fungus